moto_360The problem with most smartwatches is that they’re either ugly, or they’re as user-friendly as a modern computer running MS DOS.

The new Moto 360, however, is the first of several devices aiming to prove that’s it’s not just an uber-geeky timepiece.

For starters, it looks relatively normal-ish with a round colour touchscreen display and a lone button on the right side – there’s no hidden power plugs or extra buttons.

My test unit was black with a black leather wrist strap, but stone, light stainless steel and dark metal style combinations are also available.

The watch has an IP67 water resistance rating, which basically means you should be able to shower and wash your hands with it on, but take it off before going for a swim. And you probably shouldn’t get the soft leather wristband anywhere near water.

The 360 also packs a built-in pedometer and an optical heart rate monitor, but more on that later.

The watch runs Android Wear, a special version of Google’s mobile operating system designed for wearable devices such as, um, watches.

After you sync the 360 with your Android phone via Bluetooth, you’ll begin receiving push notifications on your wrist. This includes everything from emails to traffic delays to sports scores, whether you’re stuck in traffic or in a meeting, they can silently or obnoxiously alert you.

For the most part, the Android Wear scales the push notifications well so they make sense on the small 1.56-inch display.

The size felt well-suited for someone like me, who would never go a day without wearing a timepiece.

A variety of apps are designed to work specifically with Android Wear devices. I spent some time with a fitness app that displayed exercises, a countdown timer and rep analysis on my wrist. The watch senses when you’ve done a complete rep of an exercise, then once you’ve done a set it switches over to measuring your rest time.

Just as you can dictate voice commands to your phone, you can do the same with the 360. It works incredibly well when your hands are occupied, such as when you’re driving.

Just say “Navigate to…” and specify an address, then the 360 will pull up directions and begin provide step-by-step navigation to the destination you read out.

Something that didn’t work incredibly well was the battery life. With the ambient screen (the clock display) enabled, 360 ran out of juice before getting through a full day.

With ambient screen switched off, the Moto watch made it – just barely.  For someone who is used to looking down at their wrist to check the time, without necessarily used to flicking the write to ‘wake up’ the watch, keeping the ambient sensor off took some time to get used to.

When the 360 does run out of juice, just drop it on the cradle and the watch charges wirelessly.

The optical heart rate sensor is neat, when it works.  If you’re sitting at a desk, lying on the coach, snoozing in bed, it quickly shows your heart rate and relays that to relevant apps.

But in between sets during a workout, or trying to catch my breath after a run, the 360 struggled to detect my heart rate.

However, the 360 did keep up with my daily steps, and the phone it was paired with used that data to tell me how healthy a lifestyle I was living.

In fairness, the Moto 360 appears to be the best Android Wear smartwatch out there. If you can tame the battery use, and if fitness tracking isn’t at the top of your wish list, then the Moto 360 is a worthwhile option.